This week I came across one of many book promotions in my Facebook feed and it struck me as wildly inappropriate. Then it hit me that I see a lot of book promotions that basically say the same thing, just not necessarily as candidly: "He won't take 'No' for an answer." Then I realized that I'm guilty of this, too.
That's supposed to make potential readers all tingly and excited, but I just went cold because it's a blatant endorsement of rape. You've heard the justifications: If she has an orgasm, is isn't really rape. She said "No," but she really meant yes.
With the ridiculously light sentence handed to a college student in California after being convicted of "twenty minutes of action," one might think that we'd take the absence of consent more seriously. Granted, acting provocatively and teasing to suddenly withdraw the invitation isn't fair to the poor guy you got all hot and bothered. But just as a woman who dresses to draw attention isn't asking to be assaulted, a man who's any sort of man at all should have have the self-control to stop when the answer is anything but a clear affirmation to continue.
The Thames Valley Police in the United Kingdom put together this beautifully clear, animated video on the issue of consent: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZwvrxVavnQ. I strongly recommend that everyone watch, listen, and take it to heart.
What also bothers me about the whole rape fantasy romance thing is that much of it's being written and published by young women whose formative years were likely inundated by public safety messages stating that no one has the right to touch you without your consent. Young women growing up these days cannot escape safety messages warning them to stay aware of the environment, not to walk alone in the dark, not to answer the door to strangers, and so forth. Today's adult women 35 years and younger have been raised in a culture of fear that also tells them they can do and be whatever they want to do and be.
A woman can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan, but she better not invite the cute guy next door for dinner because he's a sexual predator in disguise.
As romance writers, our work is read by impressionable young women and maybe a few men. So, to the guys, here's a word of advice: These stories are fantasies that usually end in happily ever after, not prison sentences. To women, here's a word of advice: If your guy doesn't treat you with respect, then dump him. To fellow authors: Let's raise the bar and show our heroes treating our heroines with respect.
What a concept.
Russian Gold, the sequel to Russian Lullaby and the second book in my Russian series, has been drafted and is now in the hands of beta readers. I can still use more beta readers, if you'd like to volunteer.
Writing the book is the fun part of the publication process. Editing comes next. That's where beta readers come in: they get the rough draft. The beta reads is my first round of outsourced editing. Their general impressions help identify what "regular" readers will notice when they read my book. From their comments, I can fix plot holes, inconsistencies, redundancies, and other flaws.
After revising in accordance with beta reader comments--or not, as the case may be--the next draft is then ready to go to an editor who will put his or her eagle eyes to the task of whipping the manuscript into shape. No editor expects a writer to accept 100 percent of his recommended changes, but an editor's opinion will greatly improve those story mechanics that sometimes just don't seem to work well.
I've got a cover designed. Actually, the cover for Russian Gold is a variation on the cover used for Russian Lullaby. They're themed, you know. So no sweat there. The as-yet untitled third book in the series (not serial) will have a similar cover design.
I'm also working on another book, this one is a fantasy romance. Maybe that's the same as paranormal romance, but I'm not altogether sure about that. It doesn't have a title, either. But I hope to have that ready for release by the end of this year, too. Fingers are crossed.
Like everyone else with a website and who offers a service, I'm trying to boost sales and commissions on already published titles. Hey, I live off what I earn from book sales, so this is important. To that end, I'm trying to figure out Facebook advertising, use the Amazon Associates program, and chasing down freelance gigs. Wish me luck. This stuff just isn't intuitive for me.
I'm no marketing expert. Anyone can tell you that. But even I must acknowledge that marketing is necessary to sell books. My go-to marketing expert, Fire and Ice Book Tours, did a good job, but results from the last three campaigns were lackluster at best. I heard that Facebook marketing is very cost effective and just plain effective. So, I'm trying to try it.
Unfortunately, Facebook isn't cooperating.
I don't normally consider myself stupid, but Facebook is convincing me otherwise. Something's wrong with the ad I'm trying to set up. I went so far as to establish a business page on FB: Hen House Publishing. I boosted the promotion of a sales post to almost 500 recipients. Woo. Hoo. What I really want is to send recipients in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand with advertisements promoting Ulfbehrt's Legacy--you know, those little ads that appear to the right of one's regular news feed.
Facebook says there's an error with the order and offers me a link to "Fix Errors." The link takes me to the "offer information" of the ad set page and offers nothing further that's useful. What's the error? I wish the system would be specific. That would help, because then I'd know what was wrong and could work on the problem to fix it.
Oh, and if you're interested, Ulfbehrt's Legacy will be on sale for only $0.99 until September 21.
Since this is another light week, I'm going on another rant directly related to some project offers I received.
The first concerns a potential client who wanted to hire a writer for his biography. We went back and forth and even scheduled a teleconference. He didn't bother to call. He didn't bother to let me know that he'd hired someone else whose quoted fee was less than mine until I contacted him to ask if I'd misunderstood the call time and date. His budget was $600. I told him that his budget covered a document up to 12,000 words, including editing, revising, and formatting. I think that's pretty generous, considering that merely writing the rough draft would take at least 24 hours of work.
He contacted me yesterday. Aha, I thought, your el-cheapo freelancer didn't work out. Sure enough, my hunch was right. He asked me to write a 24,000-word book for the reduced price of $300, because he already wasted half his budget on the other contractor. Um...no. His failure to hire the right contractor the first time does not mean that I have to work for him substantially less than minimum wage. I sincerely doubt he'd work for those rates; why should I?
Today I responded to an RFP to write a story, about 15,000 words. The potential client responded that his budget was $150. I told him my fee for that project would be $750. He replied back: "Ok, thanks for replying back. Well quite honestly I know that on Upwork the fee for writing is usually around .02 cents per word, this is why usually a 15,000 word book would be about $200. Anyway, I have got your point, I will keep in mind your offer."
My response: "The Upwork fee is NOT the going rate for writing; that fee is the percentage commission that comes off the fee paid to the vendor. Like Fiverr, Upwork takes a 20% commission off vendor earnings. Think of it this way, a 15,000-word book will take approximately 30 hours to draft. That doesn't include time and skill needed for research, editing, revising, or formatting. I certainly won't put in 30 hours of work for only $200, which would then be reduced by the platform commission to only $160. Would you?"
Yes, I got a little testy.
Here's another one today for a similar project. The potential client began with, "How much do you take? Because my budget is quite low at first." Then she added: "[F]or 40 pages, $40; that's my final offer. I will give you, after publishing, a minimum of $60, depending on the sales." Wow. Just...wow. And not in a good way. First, there's no way to predict sales. Second, offering me $0.60 per hour is just insulting. Again, I doubt she'd work for that hourly rate.
(By the way, I edited her responses because they were misspelled and just very poorly written.)
I wish there were a way to persuade other freelancers to stop devaluing the profession. Perhaps if we put a higher value on what we do, then buyers would, too.
So, I told my husband yesterday that I would henceforth concentrate on RFPs for editing. People who hire editors appear to be more reasonable about compensation. If I'm going to write for slave wages, then I'll write what I want for myself. To that effect, I should be wrapping up Russian Gold soon and need some beta readers.
Listening to the VistaPrint commercials, one might be lured into thinking that no entrepreneur will ever get his business of the ground without snazzy business cards to hand out like candy at Halloween. Granted, business cards offer a convenient, low-tech way to pass along your contact information and maybe an inkling about what it is you do.
Goodness knows I've got some. They're dark red with a picture of a chicken. Hen House Publishing. Get it? (Relax, I won't bore you with how I came up with that moniker.) Thank goodness I didn't splurge and order a thousand of them.
What I didn't expect was to have so few opportunities to distribute my business cards. I carry them in my purse. They're more readily available than my cell phone, which is usually dead or left behind. Of the 500 I ordered, I've probably given out maybe 50.
I gave three to my farrier. (For those not in the know, a farrier is a blacksmith who trims horses' hooves and shoes them.) He's in contact with hordes of people from all different professions. Of course, he's not placing a priority on promoting my business. Really, I doubt many of his customers say, "Hey, Mike, you know a good writer or editor?" Many of them would probably be surprised to discover he can read. I've handed out a few here and there, but their promotional value has been pretty lackluster thus far. Or maybe it's because I like being a recluse too much and don't get out.
I'm hoping to give out a whole bunch of them at the ConGlomeration in April 2017. I learned about this event last weekend at the Louisville Mini Maker Faire while helping my youngest brother display his steam engines. Yes, it was fun. I helped out at the Dayton Mini Maker Faire, too.
A young lady approached my brother's exhibit booth, handing out postcard fliers for the event. We struck up a conversation. I informed her that I served as an editor for a fantasy/horror/science fiction magazine and was also an author who wrote fantasy (and romance, steamy romance). She advised me to expect an invitation to speak or serve as a panelist.
I'd be happy to do so. Since Louisville is only a 3-hour drive from home, it's definitely a doable event. Regardless, this means I'll have to prepare: order copies of my books to re-sell (and autograph, I hope), write a speech and design a presentation if I'm going to be a speaker, and take full advantage to hand out oodles of business cards. These won't necessarily be people seeking to hire me as a ghostwriter--unless they want someone to write stories for them--but, perhaps they'll be customers to buy my books.
So, if you happen to see me out and about, ask for a business card. I'll be happy to give you one or six. And maybe, just maybe, you'll need a writer or editor or will come across someone who does and can refer me. Hey, I'm not too proud to beg.
Hard boiled, scrambled, over easy, and sunny side up: eggs are the musings of Holly Bargo, the pseudonym for the author.